This post is part of a series documenting entrepreneurship in Mexico and the companies who participated in the inaugural Unreasonable Mexico program.

For 85 percent of Mexicans, one out of $13 of their savings makes it into a bank account. The other $12 are saved informally—kept in cash under the mattress, for example.

“People say that because of the culture in Mexico that people don’t save, and I disagree,” says Enrique Bay, CEO of KIWI, a company that provides tailored pre-payment plans based in Mexico City. “They save much more than they take out loans—it’s just done differently than other parts of the world.” Traditional banks don’t offer affordable avenues for customers to borrow money for important costs like healthcare. High interest rates prevent the majority of the population from turning to extant financial systems for help.

KIWI just celebrated their 10th completed payment plan: Ten individuals fully paid off an agreed amount of funds in a timely manner in order to access health care they wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford—and they’re on their way to twenty. KIWI takes a small commission from the provider once the plan is completed. The goal is to expand to other verticals: education, insurance, business materials, and savings accounts. The ambition for the coming year is to see at least 1,000 payment plans created and paid off, thus stimulating the economy and sometimes, saving lives.

“A woman with no friends or family needed a surgery and wasn’t able to afford it,” recalls Bay. “We offered a flexible payment solution and in three months she had paid it off. Later we learned she had contemplated suicide and knowing that we were able to be a part of helping prevent that meant a lot.”

Part of keeping up with the growth means adding more committed staff to communicate directly with the user. This solidifies the human connection—there are faces behind the payment plans.

Bay dreamt up KIWI while at MIT for his MBA. Like most ventures without a handed down blueprint to work from, there were lots of sleepless nights. “One thing that worked for me,” recalls Bay, “is believing that if you persevere that something will work.”

He wanted a solution to provide the population of Mexico with the ability to afford goods and services without the cumbersome nature of bank loans, gimmicks and high interest rates. “We recognize that financial institutions are hard to trust,” explains Bay. “We don’t think of ourselves as a financial service company, rather as a solutions company—it’s a specific solution. The way we establish trust is we partner with a service provider and they offer our service to their patient.”

The BOP wants to save, wants to trust, wants to grow. They only need means to reach their goal Tweet This Quote

KIWI’s partnerships in the healthcare sector allow patients to obtain life changing surgeries, medicine and treatments they otherwise could not afford. A merchant, clinic or retailer can sign up for KIWI and offer their customers the option to pre-pay for a service through an established technology platform that personalizes affordable payment plans. A user can pay the agreed upon installments in any of the 12,000 convenience stores through Kiwi’s collection partner—the merchant benefits by widening their customer base and increases their sales. “We don’t charge a fee or commission to the user,” says Bay. “They only pay the cost of the service. We transfer the funds and charge the commission to the sector or provider.” Kiwi asks for a commission of ten percent based on the completion of the plan.

Investors often want to know about similar models to KIWI—does anything like it exist? According to Bay, the answer is no: “Banks are falling behind in products and services. They can’t experiment. We can be the front facing service and they can provide back end services that would help in our scaling. We are a new company. It’s hard to decide a perfect marketing strategy without points of reference that already exist. Eventually, we want to incorporate new services like insurance and savings accounts by partnering with banks and other financial institutes.” This approach ensures KIWI can adapt to long term economics.

“The BOP wants to save, wants to trust, wants to grow. They only need means to reach their goal, and KIWI will be one of those tools.”

About the author

Cayte Bosler

Cayte Bosler

Cayte is an Unreasonable correspondent. She collects stories and lessons from and for entrepreneurs dedicated to solving the world's most pressing problems. She writes on a variety of subjects including science, technology, international development, the environment and travel.

  • hmtorre1

    This was interesting and in some ways inspirational. It saddens me that Mexico’s current financial platform isn’t benefiting its people.

  • oliviamontoya

    I think what KIWI is doing is really cool. It gives people the opportunity to pay for expensive services, such a surgeries with out taking out a loan that they might not be able to pay off. I think this is beneficial for healthcare purposes. Its important to these people to know they have alternative options when paying for a life changing procedure that they would normally not be able to afford.

  • sauerm29

    I find Kiwi’s approach to be very innovative. The quote was made that, “banks aren’t willing to experiment,” inability to adapt to the time that we’re is not helping anyone. Kiwi’s plan is bold and should generate some positive income. Ideas like this are essential for society to adapt to the given economic times.

  • The idea of partnering with health clinics, merchants, banks or other financial institutes to back up a micro-financial lending system is brilliant and carries a big social value in helping those who are in need and can actually pay back. I am curious to hear how models like KIWI can be sustained if a situation prevents majority of people from paying back on time. What is the back up solution or how is this model structured to secure itself for the longer term?

  • osonbol

    The article is very interesting especially that is moving businesses to Mexico city and contribute with entrepreneurs to save as money life as they can in Mexico by proving the financial they needed and guarantee for them a better life.

  • AmberDraina

    This model can greatly benefit the people of Mexico. I like the fact that they are not charging giant interest rates and essentially digging already struggling people into more debt. I wonder if this could be implemented or brought to the U.S.There are struggling people here too and it seems the banks just keep getting greedier and greedier.

  • Paul Townsend

    If I understand correctly KIWI is either a pre-paid health care service to the poor in Mexico or a third part service for the poor in which they only pay for medical procedures but not the fees and other excess expenses. KIWI pays the health care provider the miscalleneous expenses and doctor fees. The poor only pay for the procedure in payment increments. Am I right?

  • alvalli123

    This is a great service to the community. By making the process more personal, it allows the people that need money quickly to get it and pay it back without feeling the stress of having no one to talk to.

  • Hi Gokce,

    Since our users are paying in advance, there is no need to worry about not “paying back in time” (no delinquency), but rather, to pay-in-full in time. To help patients do that in the easiest way, we are continually re-designing our platform to best accommodate our users’ (they design their payment plan), we offer a wide range of payment points (through our collection partner), and we follow up with them with positive messaging about their status and their objective (through SMS messaging).

  • Hi Paul,
    You could think of this is a Layaway platform for medical services. The difference is that we open the platform so any health service provider can use it, instead of them having to develop one by themselves. Plus, the platform is not only Layaway (designing a pre-payment plan), but a follow-through system (SMS messaging), a wide range of payment points (so people don’t have to return to the clinics to make every payment), and a specific focus on making this experience as seamless and positive as possible for the patient.

  • ssamazin

    I believe the mission (and the importance) of KIWI is best summarized in one sentence:

    “We don’t think of ourselves as a financial service company, rather as a solutions company—it’s a specific solution…”

    It seems like KIWI is centered more on filling a need much as a social entrepreneur would do rather than competing with banks. They are filling a niche while helping people who may be forgotten by big banks.

  • mebneter1

    This model is amazing, and desperately needed. I can definitely see it scaling up. The testimonies, like the woman’s in the article, are very powerful, and undeniably moving.

  • Lilith Schor

    I love the idea. I wish we had more innovative saving plans in the United States. I feel like because we are such a developed country we forget that there are so many people trying to save and build up credit, who often cannot afford health care either.

  • Alexander

    KIWI is a great company that has taken a step forward from the present flow of banking. One thing I had to ask is if KIWI is able to have their clients pay online or do they have to go into their store?

  • tspurloc

    I do not fully understand the specifics discussed in this article; however, I do appreciate their purpose. I often worry about the ability of individuals to rise out of poverty in nations that have poor reputation for allowing them to do so. I appreciate the efforts of KIWI and the impact they have on people and the Mexican economy.

  • Hi Alexander,

    80% of Mexico’s adult are underbanked, meaning they use cash for most of their transaction. Because of this, paying online is not a great benefit. Mobile money hasn’t taken of as well.

    So what they can do, is they can go to their corner store (OXXO) and pay there. There are over 12,000 OXXOs around Mexico, so it’s more convenient to pay there than to go back to the clinic each time.

  • Hi tspurloc,
    Kiwi’s model is so simple that it’s sometimes hard to explain. Basically, you get a quote for a service (say $1,000), you chop that number into pieces (say ten $100 payments), and you select a frequency (say weekly). All you have to do from then on is pay each instalment (in advance) and once you finish, you get the service you wanted. Kiwi’s role is to make that structure as simple, convenient, and as easy-to-follow as possible.

  • Thank you for your reply Enrique. I really like the idea of positive messaging and the range of payment points for patients to keep up with. As you said ‘payment-in full in time’ is rather important, what would happen if full amount cannot be payed on time? What are some of the possible risks you observe or do you see any areas to improve within this system in terms of payment security? Are there any interest rates at all? Again, congratulations for a very inspiring project and I hope this program will work at its best.

  • Thanks for your comments!
    If they don’t pay in time, they have to design a new plan for the remaining balance. If the price of the service increased, they must pay the updated price. If not, they’ll only pay the balance remaining under their new plam. We aim to have an easier way to pay, hopefully through mobile-money (once that takes off), or through banking partners (that can offer suitable banking products through us), making it even more secure. There are no interest rates at all, since it’s not debt, it’s an advanced payment. Thanks for the cheers!

  • Matthew Manley-Browne

    I feel that this article would be helpful for anyone living in Mexico or a third world country. It would provide them with financial options for managing their money and not feeling as though they were being taken advantage of. One question I have is this: How do you plan to convince people that their money is being put to good use and they are not being taken advantage of?

  • rtcooper

    Hope to someday see the condition of Mexico get better so that more people can live better quality lives than they are currently.

  • Garrett Nelson

    I think this says it all right here, “We don’t think of ourselves as a financial service company, rather as a solutions company—it’s a specific solution.” This is a great description of what this company seems to be all about. Not just a temporary financial aid for people to get trapped in, but a solution to growing problems in Mexico. This could be a great way to not only save thousands of lives, but potentially lead into building more companies like KIWI that will provide solutions for people in tight situations, ultimately saving even more lives. I hope to see this have a consistent positive affect in Mexico so more people will live healthier lives. A question for the author, where do you see KIWI in the next 5-10 years? Will there be more improvements? Thanks for the post!

  • edeyoung

    It is cool to read about social ventures that are making a difference in different parts of the world. To be able to positively impact countries that have very high poverty rates is a huge success. I hope that more people who are residing in mexico and need to be able to take out loans will be able to through KIWI.

  • Boeing7

    This was an interesting article to read. I think this company presented here has a good idea going. My only concern is whether or not a 10% commission will be enough revenue to keep them going in the future. Also, I could see insurance companies not taking to kindly to this venture. That being said, I wish them the best of luck.

  • Boeing7

    I agree rtcooper. Unfortunately, the government of Mexico is not stepping up to the task of improving the country so it is up to ventures such as KIWI to do so. I think they have a great idea here that could eventually lead to a big change.

  • Boeing7

    That is a good point Matthew. Unfortunately, many of the people who need these service would not look into or ask the same questions that you do. That could be a problem if someone decides to take advantage of this type of business and set up some sort of false company.

  • This was one of the first things we thought about (and still are). KIWI is not a Kiosk or a corner shop on the street. KIWI operates through partnerships (payment collections, clinics, etc). We establish a relationship with a clinic, and work together to help patients afford surgery. They are, in a way, a filter for us to be able to offer pre-payment plans. We plan to expand such partnerships with financial institutions in order to provide more security and more/better services to our users.

  • Thanks Boeing7 and rtcooper. I agree, it’s up to us to make a change and we are working hard to make that possible.

  • AutryS

    With a socially driven organization participating in the capital market, there is the competition between similar, profit driven, product and service providers. From my understanding, a majority of Mexico’s population distrusts the financial institutions. However, could there be an opportunity for those institutions to create rival services? If so, Bay, how do you foresee maintaining your mission as KIWI and, possibly, your competition grows?

  • Brooks Broussely

    It is really refreshing to see this kind of social impact happening in Mexico. I personally think that is very important for us to not just let Mexico and its people fall by the wayside. To often it seems, American’s just either don’t care about what is happening in Mexico or they do not think what is happening effects us.

  • Anto George

    I know this is a pipe dream, but I can just see this type of financing just taking off in the United States…

  • Bangyan Zhang

    This platform seems work. But, I think it might be some problems in there that need us to figure it out. It should have a long and tough way to improve.

  • alwightm

    This is great way to improve the effects in Mexico. It’s great to see that something is working and an example other countries could follow. I hope we all learn from this and take adjustments moving forward.

  • melissa

    It’s true that people in other countries save differently than those in the USA. It’s great to see an article that recognizes that traditional western banking may not be the best solution for millions of people throughout the world – especially those who are most economically disenfranchised. Rather than try to teach people financial literacy for westerners and extend access to traditional banking services, it is important to create financial services that fit the unique needs of many with limited access to capital and secure places to invest and grow their savings. Thanks for the write.

  • hmcavey

    What a great plan to improve living and finances in Mexico. Hopefully with time, other countries can adopt this platform.

  • christopher

    I think this is a great way to try and help those struggling in foreign countries around the world. I believe that it can be the first step in the right direction.

  • DBrownDreamer

    What a great social enterprise and solution to a problem affecting those who are in need. This is what it’s all about. Developing sustainable solutions to help create equity!

  • Rhea Lewis

    This is a great model that hopefully will be adopted in similar places to help people in a way that banks cannot and make their lives better. Reading that a woman was contemplating suicide but this helped her with surgery and let her pay the money back was really inspiring and goes to show that new ways of thinking can be so powerful in solving the problems of the world.

  • awest42

    This article showed a really great way to help out a region that is in some real need of support. It is really neat to see that some of these ideas are going towards things that will actually make a difference to people who desperately need it. That’s really what this whole thing is about at the end of the day.

  • Ryano313

    I think that this is a great thing for these people. I am sure a lot of people would not go out on a limb and try to help these less fortunate people let alone trust them to pay up. Doing this style of a pay plan helps them get their money together and actually be able to pay it off. Now if this could be developed around the world, that would be a game changer.

  • Ryan Geisel

    It’s good to hear that they are able to get the help that they need when they need it. Sometimes it is always not available, so it is good to hear they are getting the financial help.

  • Kyle Schiedemeyer

    Great article thank you. It is simple, people need to help each other so that when they need something they have connections or the resources to do so. It is great for these people what is going on right now. If I could ask the author a question it would be, what inspired you to write this article?

  • emeloul

    I love this idea because I think it truly speaks to what a social business wishes to be. Most social businesses help towards solving a problem, but in this model they are providing the solution. They are giving consumers a product that they need to survive and are still making a profit in the end. This model actually promotes economic growth and community building for the consumers using it unlike most of the one for one models that are merely for profit non-profits handing out bandaid solutions.

  • dsilver4

    Banks are capable of being very influential, but without people relying on them to save money, they are unable to give out as many loans as possible.

  • reedwar3

    I agree completely with dsilver4 Banks are very capable of being ver influential, and are more than capable of helping out people whenever they wish to they just choose not to. at risk of not getting paid back having people default on a loan. but when they do go out there way people can help themselves.

  • Brittney Glende

    What a very interesting article Cayte, thank you for sharing with us. I love that you offer an affordable cost/plan for women who may need surgery, I like that there is a three month plan available for them to pay off the debt. What is it that inspired you to write this article?

  • Bryan Parylak

    I enjoyed reading this article. There’s always room for new methods to better the lives of those on other countries.

  • aopstad

    I love what was talked about in the article it is really cool to see how a company can make such a difference in peoples lives and that is something that I aim to do. They take a different approach to a very formal industry (Banking), Which is very cool.

  • Russell Lyons

    I recently read an article about a new mode to transportation that could save Mexicans money. I was interesting to read this article so close in timing as the other. This article shows just how bad the Mexican economy is actually doing and other ways to improve the economy,

  • mbah7

    My question is, why Mexico? I think what they are doing is absolutely wonderful but I just want to know of all the countries in the world many with worse problems, why Mexico?

  • amayeux

    It is really refreshing to see this kind of social impact happening in Mexico. I personally think that is very important for us to not just let Mexico and its people fall by the wayside. To often it seems, American’s just either don’t care about what is happening in Mexico or they do not think what is happening effects us.

  • JamesSpadge

    It is interesting to see this type of thing starting in Mexico. I dislike how they state that having 1000 plans will stimulate the economy, because in that small of number i believe it would have little impact. It may be able to in the future but that appears a long way out.

  • dillonleeperez

    I love that this type of activity is going on in Mexico, but I had some questions in regards to the actual model of KIWI. How is it different from microfinance? How are these payment plans typically structured versus average loans? Are there people KIWI refuses to provide funds for? I felt like some details were missing from the article in terms of KIWI’s actual operations that I would like to learn more about.

  • Jeff Binstein

    The title of this article hooked me, and then when I read it I was very happy with what I read. It is very exciting to see this type of activity going on in Mexico. Sometimes I feel like people forget, or disregard Mexico and this article shows that it isn’t true

  • Mitch Sween

    Thanks for the article!
    I really like this business model, I think it is great. One question i have after reading this post is how long has this business been in existence? also how have you been marketing your business? word of mouth? commercials?

  • Alisa2014

    Did I understand this correctly: You charge the sector or provider and not the user? Would this be similar to companies paying a service fee for allowing people to pay with credit cards? Won’t this cost ultimately trickle down to the people who aren’t using loans to pay for service?

  • osonbol

    This article is very interesting, especially about representing the business model. i love this kind of activity going on Mexico will take them to new financial platform, i hope this article will take them to a new financial level and build a new capital for mexico.

  • amuhammad11

    Taking the cultural norms of Mexican people into consideration made for an awesome business venture that allows the people to meet their needs in a way they can feel comfortable with. Great way to meld the two and create success on both parts.

  • Edward Ivor McCray

    It sure seems like a lot is happening is Mexico at the moment. I believe their culture is taking a turn for the best. This will create new financial opportunities for the people in Mexico.

  • Mizu4TheWin

    I’m so glad to see this happening. I hope this continues and spreads like wildfire throughout the world. I know that I would be much more comfortable with these types of loans than the ones that are here, in the US.

  • Cayte

    Hi Brittney, Thanks for the read. I am profiling entrepreneurs in Mexico who are part of our institute program. You can expect to read more about exiting ventures in Mexico in the coming weeks. Take care.

  • Brittney Glende

    I look forward to reading more of your articles on this topic! How did you get to where you are today? What is it that drove you to be a profiling entrepreneur?

  • kyliekielsky

    This is a great article. There are so many monumental things happening in Mexico right now, and this is certainly one of them.

  • ReneeBinder

    This is awesome that this is happening in a country that needs it so badly. I hope that this program/idea moves to other parts of the world that are poverty stricken. I think it is great that they are giving the poor citizens a new sense of hope.

  • CoachDavis24

    Thanks for this article. It’s good to hear that people in Mexico can go to a bank, trust get a reasonable loan, and not have to pay an arm and a leg in interest. I wish there were more people who are just trying to help people and not make the most capital as possible. It’s refreshing. You continue to write about great people, doing great things for the people who need help in the biggest ways. Keep the articles coming!

  • Cameron Sides

    Hopefully this continues in Mexico. The fact that this is a win-win for both sides is terrific and wish them the best!

  • Hi mbah7. I am from Mexico so I understand the problem from this geography’s perspective. Having had experience in this culture, I was inspired to start here. That said, we are planning to expand as we believe we have a simple solution for a global problem.

  • Hi jamesSpadge. Thanks for the comment. 1,000 is just a number, what matters is that we get there, then we can say 10,000; then 100,000, etc. Step by step =)

  • Hi dillonleeperez. We are the opposite of micro-finance. MFIs provide loans, we provide PRE-payment plans (people pay 100% in advance). MFIs charge interest/fees, we don’t. MFI’s benefit from late payments/fees, we provide a coaching system to help people pay in time because we don’t get paid until they finish their pre-payment plan. Think of Layaway in the US but for health services in Mexico.

  • We only started a few months ago; what you read is the results of our pilot. So far it’s word of mouth and personal selling. We have a channel development plan in order to reach as many clinics and patients as possible during 2015.

  • Hi Alisa2014. Yes, we charge the provider (not the user). First thing to note is that we don’t provide loans, but rather PRE-payment plans (patients have to pay 100% in advance to receive service). Second, we don’t believe the cost will be transferred to other people. At the end of the day, clinics have to spend to bring in patients (marketing, promotion, discounts, etc). KIWI is an avenue to provide service to the many patients who currently do not afford surgery because they a) don’t have the cash or b) don’t want nor are candidates for credit.

  • JonathanYK

    this type of business will help people in Mexico, people need someone can help them and can be trusted.

  • Slepicka12

    Thank you for this article. I think that this is a good thing happening for Mexico.

  • Slepicka12

    yes i agree that the title totally dragged me into this article. and it is great to see things happening in Mexico.

  • Evan Hibbs

    Cayte, thank you for the article. I believe the cash being stored in a bank account is a great idea and it was very informing learning this information. I believe this is a genius idea by people in Mexico and it will benefit them. I certainly think this is a great idea going on in Mexico.

  • Evan Hibbs

    I agree Renee, I think any country could use this strategy to manage money better.

  • Thanks for sharing @russelllyons:disqus Was the new mode of transportation inspired purely by financial returns or was there also a socially or environmentally impactful result as well?

    When you say the economy, what are you specifically are you referring to that would be most positively impactful? In my opinion, I think the distribution of wealth and the policies that further hinder those living in poverty to access basic human rights (i.e. as the article mentioned, impossibly high interest rates when taking out loans) is a big problem that Mexico and most countries in the world need to address. I recently read “The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid” by C.K. Prahalad that deeply inspired a new perspective on economic development and business. Just thought I’d share!

  • ali Alamri

    I always think that putting money in saving account is much better than places such as bedroom or elsewhere . Because it could be stolen or lost

  • JeremyWahl

    Thanks for the article. It is sad that people in mexico do not trust the bank and stash almost all of their money under their mattress. It is also nice to hear there is some good happening in mexico where people can trust with their money and not have to worry where their money is going.

  • Austin Jones

    Saving lives and money is something that Mexico desperately needs. With all of the corruption and crime there it is hard to rely on the government when you are in need. It is good to develop relationships within your community